From Exclusion to Inclusion: A Historical Glimpse at the Past and Reflection of the Future

Article excerpt

Baby Boy was born in 1950. Complications occurred during delivery. Mom is okay but there was something wrong with the baby. A noxia they said, Cerebral Palsy... he'll be a vegetable. The doctors said he should be institutionalized. That's where he would receive the best possible care. Dad could not believe his first-born son was an imbecile, a moron, a deviant. Morn and Dad never saw their baby boy after, he was born. He received no name and was placed in a state institution for the retarded. He roomed with 50 other imbeciles. Baby Boy spent his early years moving from the dormitory to the day room to the dining room. Once a week, for 60 minutes, recreation workers led one or two low-organized games for 50 residents. Whether young or old, they were allowed to play either a beanbag game or ring toss. Baby Boy never had the opportunity to attend school. He was not considered educable. He was allowed to work on the institution's farm and if he did well, he was rewarded with an orange. Baby Boy died of unknown causes. His county burial marked the first time he left the institution.

Since Baby Boy was born significant progress has been made in the understanding and treatment of persons with disabilities. Initially, it was perceived that people suffered from a disability, much like suffering from a disease or illness. The best possible care was offered at large, state residential facilities where custodial care was the primary form of treatment. People with disabilities were perceived to be imbeciles, morons, feeble-minded or deviant subgroups of our society. Gradually, attitudes changed. The services now offered to people with disabilities include treatment and training.

The following case study depicts this initial attitudinal change:

Bill was born in 1965 and diagnosed as having spina bifida and hydrocephalus. The doctors reported he would have significant disability and be both severely mentally and physically impaired. Per physician's recommendation, Bill was placed in an institution near his parent's hometown where he lived with 50 other retarded people in a large dormitory. When he was 12, he went to school. Once a month he and other residents went off-grounds to an activity. Sometimes they went to the local movie theater. The institution's recreation staff would reserve the entire facility so Bill and his fellow residents could attend. On those days the theater was only open to the residents of the institution. Those were special days for Bill.

After Bill was born, many cultural events and/or circumstances occurred to further change the public's attitude toward persons with disabilities, Improved medical care, treatment, technology, and research led to a greater knowledge of disabilities, increased survival of persons with acquired disabilities, and increased lifespan. The expansion of the service industry led to a dramatic increase in the number of allied health professionals. This grout) developed a unique body of knowledge, thus assuring successful training of persons with disabilities.

As knowledge increased, legislative mandates were passed to further ensure rights and services for people with disabilities. Legislative reform began in 1968 with Public Law 90480 (Architectural Barriers Act). This law requires that all agencies that receive federal funding provide access to facilities for persons with physical impairments. More substantial reform occurred during the 1970s with the passing (and multiple revisions) of the Rehabilitation Acts (Public Law 93-112). Sections 502 and 504 of this legislation mandate equal access to programs and services related to transportation, employment, facilities, and programs. PL 94-142, Education tot All Handicapped Children Act, was passed during the '70s as well. This act mandates the right to free and appropriate education for all, regardless of handicapping condition. However, during this time, persons with disabilities continued to be segregated from mainstream society. …